Sunday, February 16, 2014

God's Supernatural Provision Using People

In the world, especially Western culture, we are accustomed to having many possessions.  We have our vehicles, homes, computers, wardrobes full of clothing, a week's supply of food, some money in the bank, and many other stockpiles or supplies for future use.  This is why the prosperity gospel is so popular, because people like to hear that.  In fact, the prosperity preachers want you to believe that Jesus would wear designer clothes if He had lived on earth during our day.

However, the truth is quite the opposite. Jesus did not usually have the resources on hand that He needed. Instead, He worked supernaturally, often using people, and God still provides that way for those who follow Jesus.  Let's take a look at some examples.

The Owner of the House with a Guest Room
First there is the instance of the owner of the house with a guest room.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples *said to Him, "Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?" And He *sent two of His disciples and *said to them, "Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?"' "And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; prepare for us there." The disciples went out and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover. (Mar 14:12-16).

If we were in the same situation as Jesus was, when His disciples asked Him about making preparations, we would probably be thinking about renting a room for this purpose, buying a proper table cloth for the supper, buying the food we will need to celebrate the holiday.  We might be thinking about buying a special wine cup that is fitting for such a momentous occasion.  We would be wondering, "Where am I going to get the money to buy all this?"  But that was not the way Jesus operated then, and it's not the way He operates now.

Notice how it was only when it came time to prepare for the Passover that the Lord concerned Himself with this. And it was a human being who was going to let them use the guest room in his home. He had no house or upper room of His own.  And it was by supernatural revelation (word of wisdom and prophecy) that the provision was revealed to Him. 

The Donkey and the Colt
Next there was the instance of the donkey and the colt that Jesus borrowed.

When they had approached Jerusalem and had come to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, saying to them, "Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied there and a colt with her; untie them and bring them to Me. "If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, 'The Lord has need of them,' and immediately he will send them."  (Mt 21:1-3). The disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them, and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them; and He sat on the coats. (Mt 21:6-7).

Notice how it was only when it came time to go into Jerusalem that the Lord concerned Himself with the need for a donkey. Up until that time He did not have the donkey or the colt. And it was a human being who was going to let them use his animals for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem. And it was by supernatural revelation (word of wisdom and prophecy) that the provision was revealed to Him.

The First Fish that Comes Up
Then there was the fish that paid the tax.

When they came to Capernaum, those who collected the two-drachma tax came to Peter and said, "Does your teacher not pay the two-drachma tax?" He *said, "Yes." And when he came into the house, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth collect customs or poll-tax, from their sons or from strangers?" When Peter said, "From strangers," Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are exempt. "However, so that we do not offend them, go to the sea and throw in a hook, and take the first fish that comes up; and when you open its mouth, you will find a shekel. Take that and give it to them for you and Me."  (Mt 17:24-27).

Notice how it was only when it came time to pay the tax that the Lord concerned Himself with the need for the money.  Up until that time He did not have the money to pay the tax. And it was a human being who was going catch the fish with the coin in its mouth. And it was by supernatural revelation (word of wisdom and prophesy) that the provision was revealed to Him.

The Five Loaves and Two Fish
We can't forget the five loaves and the two fish!

When it was evening, the disciples came to Him and said, "This place is desolate and the hour is already late; so send the crowds away, that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves." But Jesus said to them, "They do not need to go away; you give them something to eat!" They *said to Him, "We have here only five loaves and two fish." And He said, "Bring them here to Me." Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets. There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children. (Mt 14:15-21).

Notice how it was only when it came time in the evening to feed the crowds that the Lord concerned Himself with the need to do so.  Up until that time He did not have any food to feed them. And it was human beings who had the five loaves and two fish. And God made the provision by supernatural power (a miracle) in multiplying the fish and loaves.

The Seven Loaves and a Few Small Fish
The seven loaves that fed the four thousand men, besides women and children, was no less miraculous.

And Jesus called His disciples to Him, and said, "I feel compassion for the people, because they have remained with Me now three days and have nothing to eat; and I do not want to send them away hungry, for they might faint on the way." The disciples *said to Him, "Where would we get so many loaves in this desolate place to satisfy such a large crowd?" And Jesus *said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" And they said, "Seven, and a few small fish." And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; and He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. And they all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, seven large baskets full. And those who ate were four thousand men, besides women and children. (Mt 15:32-38).

Notice how it was only after the people had been with Jesus for three days and it came time to feed the crowds that the Lord concerned Himself with the need to do so.  Up until that time He did not have any food to feed them. And it was human beings who had the seven loaves and a few small fish. And God made the provision by supernatural power (a miracle) in multiplying the fish and loaves.

Peter’s Boat for Teaching the People
Yet another great example is how the Lord borrowed Peter’s boat for teaching the people.

Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon's, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. (Luk 5:1-3).

Notice how the Lord did not have his own boat, but He made use of someone else’s boat (Peter’s) to sit in while He taught the people. 

A Boat
There was more than one boat that Jesus borrowed during His three year ministry.  Here are some other examples recorded in the Synoptic Gospels that simply refers to it indefinitely as "a boat."

“And He told His disciples that a boat should stand ready for Him because of the crowd, so that they would not crowd Him;” (Mar 3:9).

“He began to teach again by the sea. And such a very large crowd gathered to Him that He got into a boat in the sea and sat down; and the whole crowd was by the sea on the land.” (Mar 4:1; cf., Mt 13:2).

“On that day, when evening came, He *said to them, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ Leaving the crowd, they *took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him.” (Mar 4:35-36).

“Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city.” (Mat 9:1).

“Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities.” (Mat 14:13).

Notice how the Lord did not have his own boat, but He made use of someone else’s boat for transportation across the sea.  This boat probably did not belong to the disciples, since they left their boats with their fathers when they followed Jesus (see Mt 4:21; Mk 1:20; Lk 5:11).

The Catches of Fish
The miraculous catch of fish demonstrated what God can do when all our best human efforts fail.

When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, "Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch." Simon answered and said, "Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets." When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus' feet, saying, "Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!" For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men." (Luk 5:4-10).

That was not the only miraculous catch of fish that happened.  After the resurrection of Jesus, He did another such miracle.

Simon Peter *said to them, "I am going fishing." They *said to him, "We will also come with you." They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing. But when the day was now breaking, Jesus stood on the beach; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. So Jesus *said to them, "Children, you do not have any fish, do you?" They answered Him, "No." And He said to them, "Cast the net on the right-hand side of the boat and you will find a catch." So they cast, and then they were not able to haul it in because of the great number of fish. (Joh 21:3-6).

Notice how in both instances (recorded in Lk 5 and Jn 21) the disciples did not have any fish.  In fact, the disciples, who had once been professional fishermen, did not even have the natural ability to catch the fish, since they had been fishing all night and caught nothing. But it was by divine revelation that the Lord spoke it and it happened.  God provided supernaturally, but they had to do something. They had to obey the Lord’s command.  So He still used people, along with what they had, including their boats and nets.

Women Contributing to Their Support
The Scripture tells us that along with the Twelve, a group of women traveled with Jesus, who were contributing to their support.

"Soon afterwards, He began going around from one city and village to another, proclaiming and preaching the kingdom of God. The twelve were with Him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and sicknesses: Mary who was called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means." (Luk 8:1-3)

Once again we see that the Lord used these people who had benefited from the Lord's ministry to help support Him and the apostles out of their own private means.  They gave of what they had and God used that to help fund the ministry of His own beloved Son.

The Borrowed Tomb
Descent of Jesus from the Cross
The last example I would like to give is the borrowed tomb.

When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. And Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth, and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn out in the rock; and he rolled a large stone against the entrance of the tomb and went away. (Mat 27:57-60)

Notice how the Lord had no burial plan, no life insurance to cover the expenses, no grave that He had prepared in advance, not even a tomb stone prepared with His name and a special epithet.  He took no thought for those things before His death.

Since all of His disciples had deserted Him, they did not have a care for the fact that He was left hanging from a cross, and would not be able to take Himself down.  After His death, He would be left there for the vultures to pluck at.  This was not a concern of there's, since they were frightened by the wrath of man, and did not want to be associated with Jesus at that time.  But God sent Joseph of Arimathea, along with his friend Nicodemus (see Jn 19:39), to take Jesus down from the cross, prepare Him for burial, and place his body in Joseph's own tomb that had never been used.

My Personal Experience
Throughout the past twenty-eight years since I have been walking with the Lord, I have seen these same kinds of things happen in my own life.  God has used people many times to provide for us in answer to prayer.

When we were about to go to the mission field in 2008, we had sold our home and lived in an apartment for a couple years, but during the last couple weeks before we moved to Central Europe, we needed a place to stay.  A brother and sister in Christ from our church gave us a place to stay at their home.  A large group of people from our church helped us pack our belongings and move there, and when it was time to go to the airport, once again there were many from our church that came to help us, along with my brother biological brother.  I recall how brothers and sisters in Christ drove us to the airport in Boston, which was nearly an hour away, along with all our baggage.  They saw us off to the mission field with love.

When we arrived in Hungary, it was once again a brother in Christ and his father-in-law, who picked us up at the airport, and carried us to our home.  A couple years later, it was brethren in Christ from our church in Budapest, Hungary, who came to help us move from that home to another rented house an hour away in a village.  It was brethren in Christ who gave financially before we moved overseas, which enabled us to buy a family van in Hungary when we arrived.

When my wife gave birth to our fifth child, shortly after we arrived in Hungary, we chose a hospital that was an hour away from home.  A brother and sister in Christ from our church, who lived about twenty minutes from the hospital, kept our children at their home while Jennifer was giving birth, and they let us stay at their home for a day or two after she and the baby were discharged. Then a sister in Christ from our church in Budapest loaned us a baby crib, since we didn't have one.  And as I travel around Eastern Europe to countries like Bulgaria and Romania, it is the brethren in Christ who pick me up at the airport, show me hospitality, and let me stay in their homes.

During the nearly five years now that we have served as missionaries to Eastern Europe, God provided for us through brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ across the US who have given sacrificially to support our ministry.  Praise God for their generosity!

During a short trip back to the States on furlough in 2011, it was a brother and sister in Christ who let me stay at their home and use their car to drive around the northeast and visit churches and individuals.  They let me stay at their home while I was in my home town.  They have managed the home office of our ministry as volunteers since around 2006, and without their help we could not have done what the Lord did through us.  They have been a constant help to us, serving us in many ways, including faxing things to us overseas, making deposits at the bank, taking care of our tax document filing each year.  There were several people who volunteered as the bookkeeper for our ministry over the years, and we have never gone without someone to serve in this important role, even to this day.

When we needed to come back to the States on furlough in 2013, they went to a car dealer located nearly an hour away to test drive a vehicle I found on the internet.  They did all the leg work at the bank to pick up the check from the loan we took, and they picked up the vehicle along with another brother in Christ.  When we arrived back at the Boston airport from overseas, there was a group from our home church there to pick us up. A sister in Christ offered us her apartment to use for weeks, and a group of people donated a cooler full of food.  Other brothers and sister in Christ let us use their vehicles until we were able to get the one we had bought registered to drive.  Then another family showed us hospitality and let us stay in their home for a few weeks.

After we returned to the States on furlough during the summer of 2013, we had mechanical problems with our van.  So I asked a church we know in Belgium to pray for us about this need.  Not only did they pray for us, but they sent an offering, which covered the entire expense with a few cents to spare, and neither they nor we could have known what the final exact cost would be. We could go on and on testifying of the countless times the Lord has used people to provide for us.  God has been good to us, and He has provided the things we needed, which we did not have, and which we could not have gotten on our own.

I praise and thank God for the way He has provided. "All I have needed Thy hand hath provided.  Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me."

Self-Sufficient and Independent
Prior to the experiences I have just described during the period from 2008-2013, when I first left my prosperous, professional career in the health insurance industry in 2006, we were introduced to a network marketing company by an elder in our church.  This company was operated by a Christian family, so we had a certain high degree of trust in them.  We invested and joined around the end of 2006, and had great hopes that we would become independently wealthy, so that we would not need to depend on others to fulfill our calling as missionaries.  We thought that we would get to a place financially where we would not need to rely on financial support of faith partners. 

At the beginning, that venture looked promising, and started off well.  However, the economy took a nose dive in June 2007 and that venture dissolved into nothing very quickly.  Looking back, we've learned from our mistakes, and we can see that was not the will of God.

The Lord has not called us to be self-sufficient and independent.  This was not how Jesus or His apostles lived, and it is not His will for us.  The Lord did not have mansions on earth -- a lakeside property in Galilee and one in Jerusalem.  He did not have a warehouse or silos full of grain to feed the masses.  He did not carry with Him all the provisions He might need to accomplish His mission.  And He doesn't expect us to do that either.  Otherwise, only the rich would be able to do His will. The poor would never be able to serve in ministry to fulfill the Great Commission to go and make disciples of all nations (see Mt 28:18-20).  They would say, "I can't do that, because I don't have the resources to invest."  But the Lord has not favored the rich.  He has blessed the poor, and uses them in His great kingdom plans.

"And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, 'Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied.'" (Luk 6:20-21a)

"'But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry.'" (Luk 6:24-25a)

"...Those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces." (Lk 7:25)

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal;" (Mat 6:19-20)

"No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth. For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, 'What will we eat?' or 'What will we drink?' or 'What will we wear for clothing?' For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Mat 6:24-34)

Putting it All Together
We have seen in God's Word what happened with the large upper room, the donkey and colt, the fish and loaves, the fish with the coin, the boats, the miraculous catches of fish, and the borrowed tomb.  These examples show that Jesus did not have enough resources in the natural realm to do what He needed to do.  He did not have His own boat, His own donkey, or pantry full of food. But He drew from the inexhaustible supernatural resources of heaven to accomplish it, and God always provided.

No wonder Jesus taught us to pray to the Father in heaven, "give us this day our daily bread."  He did not tell us to pray for tomorrow's bread, or next week's bread, or the bread we will need for the next six months.  But we are simply to concern ourselves with today and ask our heavenly Father for today's daily bread.

One key in most of these examples I have highlighted was that God did use people to provide.  In most of these instances, a person had to give something they had to Jesus to help Him.  It may have been a loaf of bread, a couple fish, or a donkey. In other instances they had to do something in obedience to the Lord, which did not make sense in the natural.  Then God took what they gave or did, and He did something exceedingly glorious with it that went way beyond anything they could ever do with it.  He did something supernatural to provide.

I hope this has helped you understand the economy of God's kingdom.  It's quite different from the world's economy.  I hope it has encouraged you today to live radically for God by following Jesus.  In the world, we may have many possessions and yet be poor in God's sight.  But in God we may be poor and have nothing in this world, yet be very rich in God and have everything we need.  In fact, we always have enough to do whatever we need to do, and a storehouse of eternal rewards awaiting us in heaven, too.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB.  The "He Who Feeds the Sparrow" painting © 2012 is by Danny Hahlbohm and Clay Harrison, all rights reserved by the artist.

"Descent of Jesus from the Cross" onto the shroud held by Joseph of Arimathea, painted by Jouvenet, Jean-Baptiste (1697) - Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Author's note: If you enjoyed this post, please also read All Things Handed Over to Jesus Christ, The Link Between Two Realms, and What's Wrong with the Prosperity Gospel?.  You may access the Main Directory for The Kingdom of God is Like This, and you may also my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master."

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

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Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

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